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Which Herbs Relieve Bloating?
Posted 5 years ago by Guest Author
Written by Herbalist & Naturopath, Megan Crowch.
Using herbs to help relieve, and even prevent bloating can be a really nice natural, cost-effective way of dealing with a digestive complaint without having to turn to medicines. The earth has a huge amount of herbal remedies to offer, which are quite literally available at our fingertips!
The first key question, however, is to ask what is causing the bloating. This concept is absolutely key to naturopathy; understanding why a problem is occuring before you set out to treat it.
Some people feel bloated when they eat too many starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes, pasta and bread. To figure out whether or not this is your problem, try keeping a food diary (Lou has written a piece all about this here). If you feel bloated after eating starchy foods, I'd recommend fennel, peppermint and camomile - all of which have a carminative action - meaning they promote the release of digestive enzymes which will help your body's digestion, and help to settle the stomach by reducing the formation of gases within the gut. These herbs also have anti-spasmodic properties.
The most cost-effective way to get herbs is often to grow your own! Most are fairly hardy, and easy to keep.
You can generally find fennel, peppermint and camomile in herbal teas (don't be scared to make your tea more potent by adding two tea bags - this can often give quicker results), or you can buy peppermint drops at your local health food shop, which will usually be more potent than peppermint tea. This is why After Dinner chocolates often have a mint flavour, or why after having a curry at an Indian restaurant, the waiter will often bring you seeds like fennel, cumin, carroway & aniseed - again, these will have a carminitive effect and should help to stimulate & support your body's digestion.
Pulses & Beans
You may well have noticed that foods like pulses, lentils, and beans (or legumes) cause bloating, and flatulence. If you enjoy foods like daahl, lentil soup and beans (and you should - as these are often rich sources of protein, as well as other vital nutrients for the body!), then you need not cut these out of your diet completely.
Next time you are cooking pulses, lentils and beans, just try adding some mild spices like corriander, cumin and cardamom - this is the traditional way to cook these foods in India for example - and the spices here act as carminatives - again, providing a postitive support to your body's digestive system.
Bloating around your period
If you think your bloating is due to PMS (ie. it occurs every month either before or during your period), then try raspberry leaf (you can find raspberry leaf teas which are delicious), and yarrow. Yarrow's latin name is 'Achillea millefolium' (meaning a thousand leaves- because it has so many). Yarrow often grows in the grass and we tend to trample all over it! If you dont fancy getting out your gardening gloves though you should be able to find some at a good independent health food shop.
Both yarrow and raspberry leaf are good at helping to relive any congestion in the abdomen. Menstrual bloating occurs in the abdomen - as a build up of hormones and of course menstrual lining - this distension in the womb can easily transfer to the digestive system as the organs are of course side by side. Read more about Menstrual Bloating here.
If you don't want to grow them, you should find that your local health food shop carries a huge amount of pure herbs, at a good price. I like shopping with independent health food stores as the advice tends to be second to none!
Bloating after meals
If you're still unsure what is causing bloating, but it is particularly apparent after you eat, then you can try using herbs to stimulate the digestion before your meal. In this case, bitter tasting herbs like dandelion and artichoke are useful. The taste of bitter and sour flavours stimulates your body's release of digestive enzymes. This is why in many countries in Europe, people will take a tonic (like Swedish bitters) before they start their meal. Stimulating your body's enzymes in advance of a meal will mean your body is much less likely to create gas and bloating in the intestines & abdomen - which is often what happens when foods are simply not being digested properly. It's also nice to stimulate your body's own natural enzymes, instead of supplementing with them, if you can.
Whichever herbs you try out, I hope they work well for you, please let me know by leaving a comment here! And if you found this advice helpful, please do share it and link back.
Don't forget of course to read some of the other fantastic tips on this site, like 'Natural Remedies for Bloating' and 'Products for Bloating' which nicely sums up the pros and cons of various natural products.
Image credits: http://mariaemb.se/page/3/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/notafish
Megan is a naturopath & herbalist with a keen interest in digestive health. She has recently helped to start a website all about constipation - with a strong focus on treating it naturally, and getting to the root cause of the issue. Find out more at www.constipationexperts.co.uk
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